Vanuatu Risk Governance Assessment and Policy Consultation

Vanuatu’s society, environment and economy are highly vulnerable to a broad range of risks associated with climate change impacts, natural and geological hazards. The potential increase in the number and intensity of extreme weather events as a result of climate change means we may face greater impacts in future. There is also the potential for new or changing risk scenarios to emerge and we must become aware of these before they become too severe.

The Government aims for Vanuatu to sustainably grow and develop in a way that long term development is resilient to all major risk factors including those external to the country. This calls for improvements and changes and the introduction of new approaches in the way that risks are identified and managed.

To date climate change and disaster risk reduction have often been managed at the global, regional and national levels as separate policy agendas. Within Vanuatu, these two elements have also been managed as separate initiatives to the mainstream development agenda. With limited capacity and resources, it is vital that Vanuatu makes the best use of its human, natural and financial resources for the most effective resilience outcomes, regardless of the risk source.

The Climate Change (CC) and Disaster Risk Reduction (DRR) Policy discussion outlined in this paper aims to support the government in achieving this goal through providing the guidance that will result in more effective, integrated and appropriate approaches to achieving resilient development and livelihood outcomes. It is therefore important for any new policy to align with contemporary philosophy and practice and incorporate a range of contexts, principles and priorities so as to bring cohesion, consistency and coordination to national efforts.

What are some of the challenges?

·         CC and DRR are relatively new and rapidly growing areas requiring increasing levels of planning and coordination. Many ministries and departments do not currently have Corporate or Strategic Plans. Those that do make fleeting reference to mainstreaming climate change and disaster risk reduction without fully understanding how to achieve this in practice. It is crucial for the policy to set out the arrangements for mainstreaming and to guide the use of existing and potential resources more strategically and effectively. Consistency is needed in how we identify, design and implement our resilience strategies..

·         Confusion often exists about the meaning and application of a range of terms associated with Climate Change and Disaster Risk Reduction. It is important that terminology be clearly defined, understood, agreed upon and used consistently by all stakeholders implementing initiatives in Vanuatu.

·         Government officers across Ministries and Departments and at sub-national level lack capacity to fulfill their CC/DRR functions appropriately. Most will face significant challenges in operating effectively and meeting service delivery and accountability obligations without adequate resources, systems and expertise.

·         Regional Organizations including United Nations Agencies, NGOs and other players are frequently disengaged from or bypass government processes including Provincial Government. This often results in uncoordinated efforts, inconsistency and duplication and failure to align projects with government priorities.

·         In Vanuatu CC Adaptation and DRR initiatives are often identified and designed following different methodologies. Communities are rarely consulted on major initiatives except perhaps by NGOs. Although it is yet to be determined if this is consultation or information sharing.

·         Up to date, accurate climate change and hazard risk data and technical analysis of that data are essential to enable Government and relevant parties to make informed decisions for development planning, adaptation, targeted community awareness, preparedness and response. There must be a clear move towards evidence based decision making and planning which is an essential ingredient for resilient development.

·         Risk assessment involves a process of establishing risk contexts, consequences, vulnerable elements, scale and adaptive capacities. Risk assessment enables informed planning and decision making and communication to stakeholders to facilitate evidence based decision making. Currently no comprehensive risk information database exists for Vanuatu. 

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